I turned 27 this year. Upon doing so I realized that I had come to a wall in my budding "career" as an artist. While I know I'm still young, I felt like I had wasted some good years without focus. I thought, "Why don't I work on board games, card art, and book covers like I always told myself I'd be doing by now?" I felt like, though I've had a few wins, I wasn't proud of my work and I lacked the discipline to put my ideas in motion without losing motivation or being disappointed with the outcome. Last November I was laid off from what could be considered a cushy dream job due to circumstances well beyond the control of a lowly illustrator that had been with the studio for 3 months. This resulted in me moving back in with my parents and scraping by on freelance and unemployment. So I traveled. And binge watched a few TV shows and probably played a few too many games. And I owe my amazing girlfriend and awesome friends for helping me do that cause I know I needed that. At the end of February I was settling back into freelance and personal projects, determined to make something of myself this year.
Before long I stumbled onto Peter Mohrbacher's personal site and read up on his mentor ship. I had known about it for a couple of years but never really considered something like that a viable option. But suddenly I realized that it totally was. I had the time and the safety net to invest in something like that. And why not? I'd met Pete a few times and he always seemed like a nice guy. Plus his body of work more than speaks for itself. So I emailed him my application and to my amazement he responded within a couple of days and said I was a great candidate for the program. So At the beginning of April I became his mentee. And it was honestly one of the best decisions I've made in my pursuit of art thus far.
He began by breaking me down. He had me send him my favorite inspirational images alongside my portfolio. Then in response I received two images of models. He said simply "Create an illustration using one of these images" with no additional guidelines. So I did. I thought up a quick mood and character and painted it up. And by the time we were scheduled for our first Skype meeting I had a spectacular (though under-rendered) clone of a magic card.
I was decently proud of it, though I was bracing myself for the critique. When the meeting came, Pete immediately began with the why. Why did I paint this? Why does it have this character? Why is it in this "house style" that so many modern illustrations adhere to? Eventually, he dismissed it entirely. He began to help me understand what it was that I loved about art. What it meant to me personally. But most of all he began to guide me down the path to what comes naturally. And as I came to realize, that wasn't painting at all.
As the mentor ship progressed, he encouraged my experimentation. Trying out the things that I loved about illustration. Expressive line work. Flat colors. And reminding myself that I'm making the art I want to see. And that every piece is the best possible version of itself.
The most important thing he helped me realize is that I should focus on making images that feel natural. And dismissing the conventions that I had placed on myself. I came to understood that just because I liked something aesthetically, it doesn't mean I had to force myself into those areas stylistically, especially if I wasn't even enjoying the meatier parts of the process. This may sound simple, but it was something that I personally really needed to hear and be shown through trial and error. And I err'd plenty. Some of the pieces I made during the mentor ship shall never see the infinite expanse of the Internet if I have anything to say about it.
And when I finally let go of that preconceived notion that my art had to look like some sort of high fantasy game art that I had placed on a pedestal and could really be whatever I was best at, the dam cracked and the ideas began to flow again.
I realigned my goals and began to dust off some of the skills had had already honed when I was stuck in the design industry. Most of all he helped me carve a clear path to a self-sustained career. And build confidence on my true strengths. I know now more what I want from my art and I don't feel lost in the haze of a stylistic identity crisis.
Pete is a great mentor. He has insightful ideas that are evident not only in his own artwork, but in his observation of another fellow artist. He has some amazing experience and success in his field and is very generous with his discoveries. He will help you find the core of your skill set and enable you to define your goals. I would recommend this program to anyone who feels lost in the woods when it comes to their art.